Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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China Gets It Wrong, Very Wrong

One really wonders, what are governments using for their source of data?  Or is every fact adjusted for political positioning?  Does truth even exist anymore? …

(Politico) China’s official press agency slammed (US presidential candidate who visited Israel on Sunday) Mitt Romney for asserting that Israel’s capital is Jerusalem, saying his remarks “totally neglect historical facts” (??????) and could even “reignite” a war with Palestinians.

“U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statement that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is likely to worsen the already tense Mideast situation, and even reignite a war between Palestinians and Israelis,” the Xinhua news agency wrote in an editorial Tuesday.

“Romney’s remarks totally neglect historical facts (???????) and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home,” the agency continued, saying his “radical words were intended to win the support of U.S. Jewish voters.”

The editorial said such a move, “if translated into action, will cause international concern.”

(???????????????????????????????????)

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From Pikesville, Maryland

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     These boys are on a Birthright trip. They are from a town that has a very large religious population yet they have never been taught the spiritual value of tefillin.

    The further each generation is away from the time of the creation of the world the lower it gets. But since we are so close to the time of Redemption the greater is the opportunity. We can accomplish more with one small mitzvah today than the previous generations could accomplish by doing many.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

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Is Yoga a Spiritual Practice?

New York State says so…

NEW YORK — New York tax officials have ruled that yoga studios should be spared from sales taxes because the popular form of exercise is predominantly a spiritual practice.

The decision is a reversal for the Department of Taxation and Finance. Just a year ago it had decided yoga studios were subject to the same taxes charged at fitness centers.

But after an initial crackdown, a yoga organization got the state to reconsider and reclassify the studios.

State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal says that while many students do reap health benefits, yoga's main objective is spiritual balance.

Executive director Allison West of Yoga New York says the 4.5 percent sales tax would have made yoga classes too expensive for some practitioners.

Taxes still apply on yoga classes taught at gyms and fitness studios.

Yoga…a spiritual practice based on exercise, breathing patterns and meditation patterns.  Non-Jewish spiritual practices are not for Jews.

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What Do You Think…

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     What do you think when you see someone, especially a child, so horribly handicapped? We put tefillin on them and try to give them a good time, and surely we show them a cheerful face, but it is such a sad thing to see.

     For me, it’s always the same. First, I think, “Oh my G-d, what a difficult thing for them and for their parents!” Then I think, “Thank G-d, really, for my health. How fortunate I am.” Then I see the young people who are so kind as to help them come on these trips and I think, “G-d bless the caregivers, the ones with such patience and kindness who take care of these unfortunate people.”

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

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One of the Most Important Things

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     One of the most important things a cheder rebbe teaches his young students is to express their love of, and yearning for Hashem in song. When you hear thirty crystal voices asking G-d to bring His Redemption you have to wonder why He hasn’t answered their prayer by now.

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Not the Temple Mount

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

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The Israeli police face an impossible job of trying to balance competing religious demands in Jerusalem while trying to keep the peace and status quo.  That is, of course, the main job of police everywhere…to keep things orderly and peaceful.

One would hope the goal of Israeli police would be to facilitate Israeli sovereignty and allow Jewish practice.  If so, one’s hope would be misplaced.

Today the Israeli police closed the Temple Mount, Har HaBayit, and Al Aqsa to Jewish visitation (actually to all visitation except for Muslim worshippers).  On Tisha B’Av, in a modern State of Israel, Jews can’t visit the Temple Mount.

As a Jew living in Israel, I find that outrageous and upsetting.  That’s not an indictment of the Israeli police, their job is to do whatever it takes to “keep the peace”.  And if that means stopping Jews from visiting Har HaBayit because Muslims might take advantage of the day to “start up”, or Jewish provocateurs may do the same, then the police will shut it down.  Because their goal is not to allow or facilitate anything, it’s to keep the peace – regardless of the sensibilities they may stomp on to do so.

That sucks.  But it’s not the police’s fault, it’s the politicians.  If we expect Jewish rights to be strengthened, we must push the Israeli politicians to do so.

For we will either state and push our claim…or lose it.  And since our claim to the Temple Mount is the same as our claim to Israel itself, losing it is a really bad idea. 

(If one pays attention to the British news, they’ll already see exactly this attitude: that Jews have NO RIGHT to ANY of the Land of Israel, and have stolen it from the poor disenfranchised Palestinians.)

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Friday, July 27, 2012

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Fast or Feast?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Tisha B’Av, this Shabbos, is the day of Jewish tragedy.  The first and second Holy Temple’s were destroyed, which also meant the conclusion of semi-genocidal wars and the exiling of the (remaining) Jewish people from Israel.  Further terrible events throughout history have occurred on this day as well.

Yet we’re also told that in the future Tisha B’Av will turn from a fast day to a day of celebration, celebrating the coming of Moshiach and the Geulah Shalayma (the complete redemption).

This year we get a small taste of that moment. It’s prohibited to fast on Shabbos, so since Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbos we’ll be having a large and pleasant Shabbos meal this Tisha B’Av.  In our synagogue we go further, even having a farbrengen (a chassidic gathering of Torah and blessings) after Shabbos morning davening (prayers).

The Tisha B’Av fast will still occur, being put off until Saturday night / Sunday.  Even though we have the incredible blessings of the Land of Israel, Jerusalem, and the ability to have holy Jewish communities and centers of Torah learning around the world, we MUST NOT FORGET that we lack the Beis HaMikdash (the Holy Temple) and the Shechina, G-d’s literal presence in this world.

We long for the day when “the knowledge of G-d will be like the waters of the ocean covering the land”, when evil will be removed and we can serve G-d fully, in joy, every day.

May it be literally today, and our fast turned to a feast THIS YEAR.

(Note, according to halacha, Jewish law, if a fast day falls on Shabbos it’s either moved back to the previous Thursday or to Sunday, depending on the particular fast – different fast days having different rules and one having a unique exception allowing it on Friday).  The big exception is Yom Kippur, being holier even than Shabbat, which we celebrate with it’s fast even if it falls on Shabbat.  NO ONE should read into this article any statement about NOT fasting on Tisha B’Av or not fasting this year on this Sunday, the delayed Tisha B’Av fast.  Every Orthodox Jew is required by Jewish religious law to fast on Tisha B’Av, with limited personal exceptions for health or certain life saving jobs in consultation with one’s orthodox rabbi.)

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“He Says His Mother’s Jewish”

by Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     One of the regulars at the tefillin stand brought this European tourist over and said, “He says his mother’s Jewish.”

     What this usually means is that he cannot decide whether or not to put tefillin on him. He was on a tour with what looked like all non-Jews. He didn’t look at all Jewish, and sometimes tourists will say something just to make us feel that they are friendly, even though it might not be true. They might make up stories like, “One of my relatives was Jewish.”

     I asked him if his mother’s mother was Jewish. He said that he didn’t know because they didn’t talk much, and she died when he was still young. I asked “How do you know that your mother is Jewish?”

     He answered, “She told me.”

     “Okay,” I thought, “I have to go with the information. If his mother told him she was Jewish…,” Although I was not really sure, I put tefillin on him.

     For a non-Jew to put on tefillin is not absolutely against the law. It is not one of the prohibitions in the Seven Mitzvahs of the Children of Noah, but it is not a good thing for them to do, and they should not do it. So, even though I had doubts about the guy, and was somewhat uncomfortable, I put tefillin on him.

     After he read the Shema and prayed for his family, I took this picture and said, “Now that you know that you are Jewish, you have to marry only a Jewish girl.”

    He smiled and said, “My mother used to tell me that, too.”

   “That’s it! There’s the proof I was looking for.” The guy’s certainly Jewish. There is no way that he would have made that up, and a sure sign of a Jewish mother is that she tells her son, “You have to marry a Jewish girl!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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“He’s Allowed!”

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     A non-Jewish man from Europe walked up and asked what the tefillin were. I explained that it is a commandment to Jewish men, and that we bind G-d’s words to our arms. “It means that we will do what G-d told us to do.”

     I asked him what he was doing in Israel. His two teenage sons walked over while the man explained that they had traveled to Egypt, Jordan and a few other mid-Eastern countries. I asked him why he was doing it. He was surprised at the question.

     He told me that they were traveling in order to learn about the different kinds of people, and their cultures.

     I said, “There are more important things to learn.” I asked, “Where is G-d?”

     He placed his hand over his heart, and smiled. I asked his older son. He pointed to the sky, and smiled.

     I said, “G-d is Infinite. Where is the Infinite?”

     The boy said, “Everywhere.”

     “That’s right. So where is G-d?” He moved his arms in circles around his head. I said, “Inside, too” He seemed very happy to learn this.

     Then, when I saw his tattoo, I taught him my special prayer for such people. “Say this prayer every day. Dear G-d, if I have to make mistakes today, let me make them in pencil.”

     His father did not understand. I explained and pointed to his tattoo. “If he would have put that tattoo on in pencil he would be able to erase it.”

     The father pulled up his shirtsleeve to show me that he had one, too. I said, “Because your son saw that you have one, he got one, too.”

     The father smiled and said, “But his only lasts for two weeks, then it goes away.”

     I smiled and said, “He is smarter than you were when you got yours.”

     As they walked away I asked the boy again, “Where is G-d?”

     He smiled, winked at me, and said, “Everywhere.”

      I could see that even though I will most likely never see him again, I made a bond with the boy.

     They left and a young worker at the Kotel who had heard our conversation came over and roughly said, “He’s not Jewish. He’s allowed to get a tattoo if he wants.”

     I said, “He’s allowed, but it is a stupid thing to do.”

     “It’s none of your business if he wants to get one,” He said.

     I tried to explain, but he did not understand, “Even though he is allowed to do it, when you care for someone you try to help him keep from doing stupid things.”

     Although I did not do it for this reason, I strongly suspect that that boy’s opinion of Jews changed that day. And, you never know when, or where, his change in heart is going to help some Jew in need.

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What is The Place?

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     Late Shabbos afternoon a rabbi came up to me at the Kotel with a group of young students. They were American boys in Israel for a short trip. They were all religious, but what is called “more modern.”

     He knows me mostly from my videos. He asked, “What is the most important thing you can tell these boys?”

     I said, “The most important thing of all, they already know. They have to marry Jewish girls. I do not have to worry about this with these boys. But there is something else that they do not know, and for them, this is the most important thing of all.”

     I had their interest. I went on, “The biggest problem for these boys is that the Torah is not being taught to them in the right way.”

    “What do you mean?” he wanted to know.

     I said, “They are being taught like this…” (I pointed my finger, made a stern face, and shook my finger at them) “…instead of like this…” (I held my hands, palms up, and reached up a little as if I was yearning to receive some unseen, mystical Presence.) Now, I really had their interest.

     He knew what I meant, (that there are no spiritual teachings being taught) but he did not know how to even begin to go about fixing it. He asked again, “What do you mean?”

     “Okay, let me ask you a question.” I directed the question to the boys. “What is the place?”

     One of the most outspoken of the boys said, “What do you mean, ‘What’s the place?’ The place is the Kotel!”

      I said, “No, the Kotel is in the Place. I am asking about the place itself. What’s the place?”

     He said, “Jerusalem.”

     I said, “Jerusalem is also in the place. It’s not the place. What is the place?”

     He and the other boys were getting frustrated with me. “What are you talking about? This place is Jerusalem. It’s Israel!

     Again I said, “No, those are in the place. What is the place?”

     I went around the group trying to get them to answer. A few tried but they always named something that is located in the place.

     “Look,” I said, “Where is the end of the place?”

     One of them said, “The borders of Israel.”

     I said, “The place goes on beyond Israel, doesn’t it? Of course it does. There is some place even outside Israel, isn’t there? Where is the end of the place?”

     One of them said, “It doesn’t end!”

     “So where is it?”

     Another yelled, “Everywhere!”

     Then I went back to the first boy, and saw that he was beginning to understand a little. I asked him, “How do you say “place” in Hebrew?”

     “Hamakom,” he quickly answered.

     “What does that mean?” I asked.

     Now he was really frustrated with me, and he said louder “The place!”

     I quietly said, “HaMakom is one of G-d’s names.”

     His head jerked a little when it hit him. He looked around as if he was trying to see the Place.

     I said, “The Place is everywhere, all over. It fills and surrounds everyone and everything. It is without end.” I moved my hands in all the directions. “It is G-d Who fills and surrounds everything.”

     Each boy understood at his own level, some more than others. But even the ones who seemed to really understand only “got it” on a simple, intellectual level.

     But, if they will work on it, take the information to heart, over and over again; it will become theirs… their level or degree of spiritual understanding.

     Then, they will go through life with different intentions. They will be looking up, yearning for His Presence, and they will be looking around to see what they can give, instead of straining to see what they can take.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

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Spotted in Jerusalem, Really? Really??

Grabbed with a quick shot from my cell phone, a bus advert in Jerusalem.  Of particular note is the neighborhood in the background, Kiryat Belz.

StrongMan

It reads…

Start Celebrating Dude!

VirMax

Strengthening Tablets for Men

(Hard to see on the photo – It’s Kosher!)

The neighborhood in the background, a charedi (ultra-orthodox) Jewish neighborhood, has an AVERAGE family size of 6-10 children per family.  And Israel, as a whole, has the highest average birthrate among Western nations in the world at 2.9 children per family.

Lets just say…not needed.  B”H, really really not needed.  Thank G-d.

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The View from Above

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Monday, July 23, 2012

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Still Not Self Sacrifice

by Reb Akiva’s Daughter (with some editing and annotations) @ Mystical Paths

th (3)Some of the comments on my article about religious army service, That’s NOT Self Sacrifice!, reminded me of an 8th grade teacher (rabbi) of mine in yeshiva.

He taught us, a room full of 8th grade girls, that our sole goal in life was to get married and serve our husbands completely so they could learn Torah.  He also told us to forget any halacha (Jewish law) or Torah we knew, for we certainly couldn’t have learned it or understood it properly, and just listen to what he had to teach.  (This is not an exaggeration, he literally said this to us and repeated it to my father when he came for parent teacher conference.)

But such value will only be achieved by me sacrificing for it, if I choose to do so because I see the value, not by belittling me into it.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answered literally tens of thousands of people seeking wisdom and brachot (blessings) every week.  Yet he not infrequently gave an answer (with a few variations) that some found surprising.  It goes like this, “consult with a doctor who is a friend”, “get 3 expert opinions and follow the majority”, “consult with your rav and mashpia (personal spiritual advisor)”.

There is a special wisdom, and yes blessing, in not always answering directly or with Ruach HaKodesh, but in strengthening people to use appropriate local resources – both spiritual and worldly – to bring the right answers.

A commentor asked if I challenge whether the gedolim of this time are always to be followed.  Yes and no.  Let me explain…

If I go to a Gadol Torah (a Torah spiritual leader) and ask about shalom bayis (family relationship issues), halachic issues, educational or moral issues, or Torah questions – our Gedolim are the leaders, the wise men and the moral authorities of our Torah communities.

But should I consult with a Gadol Torah about the best rifle type for an Israeli combat unit?  (M-16 long or short, or Tavor?) 

It seems to me that the majority of the gedolim of today are not involved in today’s world.  They’re surrounded by handlers and protectors who keep them isolated and limit the flow of information to them.  This may be a blessing and benefit for their Torah study, but may not provide them with the basis of information to make decisions that require secular knowledge as well as Torah knowledge.

WE HAVE A COMMANDMENT FROM THE TORAH TO DEFEND OURSELVES.  Even if we are only being raided to steal straw on Shabbos, we’re commanded to violate the Shabbos to defend our towns, homes and land.  In Israel this is not theoretical, there are people trying to kill Jews EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

In the Israeli war of independence, every healthy Jew picked up a gun and fought.  Plenty of those men had payos and kippahs (sidelocks and yalmukas). 

For the past 63 years, the charedi (ultra-orthodox) community has had the privilege of not doing so.  Their numbers were not significant enough that it made a big difference.

Thank G-d that has changed.  The ultra-orthodox community has grown by leaps and bounds.  And if they (we) don’t stand up and start to take part, it will make a difference, a big difference.

As the numbers continue to grow, we must grow into the role of leaders as we become more than just a tiny minority.  We must learn to defend ourselves and the country.  For if not, who will?

Prayer and Teshuvah help.  Yet while the Jews of Shushan fasted and prayed, they also gathered their weapons and put on their armor.

כל ישראך ערבים זה לזה

I think that means we all have to take part.

It’s time to stand up and do our part.  Yes, our way.  The most kosher food (glatt chalak), the highest standards of Shabbos observance (compatible with an army and life and death conditions), a proper tznius training environment, times for prayer and study. 

My grandfather, a”h, survived the Holocaust and was a talmid of the Ponevitch yeshiva.  He survived the Nazi’s (y”sm) in the Kovno ghetto and Dachau.  His sister, a”h, when the Nazis (y”sm) came ran off to the hills and joined the Partisans.  While he was struggling to survive the ghetto and death camps, she was struggling to kill Nazis.  He surely would not have told her “it’s not tznius”, “girls shouldn’t pick up a gun”, “just daven and learn Torah and it will be all right.”

th (1)We have a religious duty to protect our lives.  In Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, London, and Baltimore, the religious Jewish communities have organized Shomrim – a private community policing service.  Why?  Why not just pray?  Why not just learn?  Isn’t it enough???

In these communities there’s threats of (semi-random) violence and theft, inner city crime levels.

Yet in Israel, where they are literally trying to kill us (every single day), it’s religiously prohibited to take steps to defend ourselves?

(I don’t mean to make Israel sound unsafe.  But it’s safe exactly because a very large number of men and women are working hard every single day, with blessings min hashamayim, to keep it that way.)

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What Works?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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A Friend Asked;

     “How am I to council a friend of mine from college? This friend grew up reform and became orthodox during college through the person she was dating. They were engaged and the day before the marriage he got wet feet and bailed.

     Long story short, she began to lose some of her practices to the point where she might observe Shabbat if she feels like it on the particular weekend and the like. She is in Israel doing her final residency to finish her college degree. Is there anything in particular I can talk to her about that might reinvigorate her interest for yiddishkite?

Gutman’s Answer:

Since she was being “orthodox” only to get married and not for its own sake, it is really like starting over with her. My whole “problem” with the way the Torah is being taught in most places is that the students are not getting any spiritual awareness, and instead are doing it for other reasons, such as to get married, or because you have to, or it is tradition, for a supposed reward in some future world, and on and on.

     Had she found the spiritual joy… the light that Shabbos brings, she would still be treasuring it. So how do we help Jews find this light?

     The best answer for her right now is to help her find Torah observant friends. When her friends are doing it she will also do it. But to expect her to keep Shabbos and the other mitzvahs when she is the only one doing it is almost impossible.

     When we find the spiritual joy ourselves it is a lot easier to share it with others. So first look and see why you are so happy putting on tefillin and keeping Shabbos and then lovingly explain these things to her.

     This question is, in fact, the purpose of these articles…. How can we bring Jews to the joyful, spiritual awareness that comes from fulfilling the mitzvahs in the proper way?

    Let me know what works.

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

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Moully’s Vibrant Hasidic Art

Davora wrote us, “Yitzhok Moully is a Chabad rabbi and artist.  Together we are trying to  start a new Hassidic art movement called Art for The Creative Soul.  This is a new movement to bring tzinua art to the Frum community by supporting artists and teaching Torah through art to all ages.”  Moully’s art is online here.

From Mishpacha Magazine, July 2…

Local Color - Yitzhok Moully’s vibrant Hasidic art
by
Barbara Bensoussan

The first thing you notice about Yitzhok Moully is his pink yarmulke.

This has become something of a trademark; Moully says he wears it because “I like to break barriers. I do a lot of kiruv (Jewish outreach to Jews), and my yarmulke always helps break the ice.”

But Yitzhok Moully is all about the unexpected—both in his life, where artistic passion seized hold of him with no prior warning when he was already in his late twenties, and in his art, where you’re likely to notice, amidst a silk screened line of black Hasidic figures, one guy sporting the same bright orange socks Moully now playfully lifts his pant leg to display.

Having been catapulted to fame when a film crew from a national TV station broadcast a one-minute interview with him (they’d been in Crown Heights taping a series on Hasidic life, for famous talk show host Oprah), his work now hangs in venues as diverse as the Emory University Hillel House in Atlanta and the upscale Pardes restaurant in downtown Brooklyn. He’s even had an offer to feature his work in a calendar for the coming Jewish year, made for a major supermarket chain.

Moully has not yet quit his day job, which is working as the assistant rabbi for the Chabad House in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. With a wife and four children, he’s not in much position to go live in a garret. But he’s also cognizant that while a lot of people are capable of working in kiruv, very few are able to reach people through art. Moreover, nobody else has sought to portray Orthodox Judaism using his unique form of witty, lighthearted pop art.

We meet Moully in the comfortable brownstone home of longtime family friends in Crown Heights, where there’s a constant flow in and out (including an expresso-colored cat who pads silently to and fro across the parquet). Judging from the amateur oil paintings on the wall, at least one family member here shares his interest in art. Moully himself sits in relaxed fashion on the couch, wearing khaki pants, a button-down shirt and, of course, his pink yarmulke. This departure from the more typical white shirt and black pants is perhaps natural for someone who begins the conversation by relating, “My parents were both hippies.”

Hashgachah pratis—and perhaps the prayers of his grandparents—saw to it that they didn’t remain hippies forever. “My parents were living on some kind of collective farm out in the outback in Queensland,” he says, only a slight trace of Australia still detectable in his voice. “My mother had come from a traditional home; she was a spiritual person and wanted to be connected to the land. But when I was about three years old my maternal grandfather’s health took a turn for the worse, and my mother took me back with her to Melbourne to go care for him.”

While there, she would sometimes attend the local shul on Shabbos, with Yitzhok in tow, and got to know the rabbi. Since there was a Chabad school close to home, she enrolled her son there, knowing it would please her father. “The day she enrolled me, my grandfather died,” Yitzhok says. “It was as if he’d gotten sick just so his daughter would come home and connect me to Yiddishkeit.”

Yitzhok and his mother remained another year in Melbourne. His mother, by then, had become “pretty frum,” but hadn’t relinquished her passion for nature. In 1985, she made plans to move to a religious moshav in Israel. Her travel plans from Australia included stops in California and New York.

Yitzhok was a bit over five years old, and thrilled to get his day in Disneyland. After that, as it was late Elul, his mother took him to Crown Heights, where they met a hospitable family named Toureg—the same in whose home we’re seated now —who invited them in for the holidays and kept them on for the next six months. The two families became like one; Yitzhok played with the Toureg children like a sibling.

The move to eretz Yisrael hence never materialized. Encouraged to write to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Mrs. Moully received a response telling her to remain in Crown Heights to “accomplish what you’re here to accomplish.” “Since my parents were no longer together, my mother thought perhaps that was an allusion to finding a new shidduch,” Yitzhok says. “But that didn’t happen. In retrospect, it seems what needed to happen was for me to get the chinuch I got.” In fact, he soon joined in with the groups of boys who would go to shul early on Friday nights to see the Rebbe come in, and wish him a good Shabbos; Yitzhok remembers on two occasions sitting directly under the Rebbe’s feet. “I felt the Rebbe wanted me to be part of the community,” he says now. “If it hadn’t been for that, today I would’ve been just a bloody good surfer.”

After four years, however, the Rebbe told Mrs. Moully it was time for her to return home to Australia. She went back to Melbourne, retaining her Lubavitch connection and enrolling Yitzhok in yeshiva. When he was fifteen, she remarried. Yitzhok went on to spend time learning in Morristown as well as doing a stint as a shaliach in Venice, Italy. At the time, however, the artistic riches of Italy were lost on him. “I didn’t have time to notice such things,” he says with a shrug. “It wasn’t calling to me then.”

He was more interested in giving back to a Jewish world he felt had given so much to him. After Venice, he began helping out at a Chabad House in Basking Ridge, N.J., a place he describes as “small town America.” He married a girl from Toronto [his wife Batsheva currently works training preschool educators], and became the assistant rabbi.

It’s now eight years since he first came to Basking Ridge, and he keeps busy mostly working with teens, including helping with bar and bas mitzvahs (his pink yarmulke minhag started when one girl, with an improbable name resembling “Miriam Iglesias,” brought a bunch of pink yarmulkes to the bat mitzvah her Jewish mother made her through the Chabad House. Moully put it on to please her, then decided, “This one’s gonna stay.”). He also helps with projects like maintaining the website, making videos, running a yearly café-concert fundraiser, and doing all the necessary photography—his original artistic passion.

A New World

“I always loved taking pictures; when the first digital SLR camera came out for under a thousand dollars, I ran out to buy it,” Moully says. “But after awhile, I began to feel there was something missing in photography. It was too realistic; there was not a lot of room for interpretation.”

About six years ago, he stumbled upon a video clip about a technique called silk screening, which often makes use of photographic images [see sidebar]. “I’d never heard of it,” he says. “But right away I began to think of the possibilities. It’s like a light bulb went off inside my head; I thought, ‘I could do this!’”

After extensive reading and video instruction, he undertook to give it a try, working from his dining room table. It took him a year to produce his first piece, stumbling along via trial, error and Google. It measured, he says, eight inches by eight inches. Today, he does pieces as large as four feet by six feet.

He later honed his skills by taking classes at the Lower East Side Print Shop; after choosing to augment some of his silk screen creations with painting, he took a painting class to perfect his brush strokes. As the hobby expanded, so did his vision. “I realized I had a unique perspective, a message,” he says. “I grew up familiar with two different worlds, a hippie world with a lot of color and a religious world of reverence and spirituality. People look at the Orthodox world, and they think black and white. But I want to break those kinds of barriers, to show the joy that exists in the religious world.”

As a rabbi, he says, he’s limited in the ways he can reach out to people, since most kiruv constitutes a sort of direct frontal attack. Art, on the other hand, provides a more indirect way to approach people, using a neutral common interest, and allows him to connect to a wider audience. The strikingly modern, upbeat feel of Moully’s work signals to them this is a rabbi who’s pretty with-it, and can relate to their world.

His piece “Williamsburg Bridge” speaks to the straddling of two worlds, and the attempt to unite them. The viewer sees an image with Hasidim strolling on one side, hipsters on the other, and the bridge in between them. Moully himself “bridges” both worlds: “I’ll go look at the galleries on one side of Williamsburg, then I’ll go to the other side for a kosher lunch.”

While the art world sometimes takes itself too seriously, Moully’s always able to keep a sense of humor in his work. “Matza” shows a series of images, beginning with a whole shmura matzah. As the eye travels across the images, the matzah looks as if more and more bites have been taken out of it…until all that’s left is a matzoh ball, sitting in a bowl of soup. “Orange Socks” shows a line of black Hasidic figures on a yellow background, looking rather somber until you notice one of them is sporting the same orange socks Moully claims he wore to his wedding.

Other works seek to show that ordinary objects can be transformed into a dvar shel mitzvah. Hence, a martini glass is shown juxtaposed with a Kiddush cup, and a Zippo lighter with Shabbos candles. An image of a page in a sefer Torah is shown next to an image of an iPad displaying the same page. The fluorescent hues grab the viewer’s attention and recall pop artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein; like Moully’s pink yarmulke, their express aim is to start a conversation about Judaism.

Moully is mostly self-taught, learning about art through visiting galleries or doing online searches. One of his strolls through a gallery in New Hope, PA, about an hour from his home, led to a conversation with the owner and then an invitation to display his work there (he displayed for three years, until the recession forced the gallery to close its doors).

It was through an attempt to help another artist that Moully got his big break. A couple of years ago, he got the yen to take his wife to Venice for their fifth-year anniversary, to show her the beautiful city he’d worked in before they met. They dropped the kids off with his in-laws in Toronto, and continued on. While in Venice, Moully chanced upon a charming little gallery in the old Jewish quarter, owned by artist David Ariel De Guglielmi.

Moully was entranced with De Guglielmi’s work, finding it colorful and vibrant; the artist, it turned out, had had formal training in a top Italian art school in Milan, but abandoned art after a serious auto accident and subsequent rediscovery of Judaism. As a serious ba’al teshuva with a lot of catching up to do, he put his energies into Judaism and eventually began working as a mashgiach. But one of his rabbis told him, “You have a gift, and you should be using it instead of being a mashgiach. Find a Jewish way to use your talents.” De Guglielmi returned to his easel and opened a gallery.

In the end, Moully bartered one of his own works for one of De Guglielmi’s, and undertook to become his “unofficial representative” in New York to show the work to gallery owners. While carrying this out, however, he began to feel “something of a hava amina to do a show of my own.

“I thought Tishrei would be a good time to do it, with all the people who come to Crown Heights for the holidays,” he says. “I found someone who rented a storefront for that month to sell lulavim and esrogim—but he wouldn’t need it really after the first two days of Sukkos, would he?” They worked out a deal to let Moully sublease it for the rest of the holiday.

He put out a call to all the artists he knew, saying he was planning an exhibit entitled “Hasidim of Color,” designed to showcase the color and creativity in Orthodox Jewish life. About fifteen responded (and later many more, from a thirteen year old boy to a grandmother in her eighties who surprised him by discussing the way she employs Photoshop in her art).

Immediately following the first motzaei chag, the artists convened at the storefront to hang their work. “We hung paintings till 1:00 a.m.,” Moully recalls happily. “The response was amazing! People were coming in with their paintings, asking to be a part of it. Two a.m. came and we couldn’t close the doors. We finally closed for the night at 4:00 a.m.”

The show wasn’t a roaring success financially, but they made enough money to cover the costs. But it accomplished something more important than money: it gave exposure to Jewish art, and created a venue where Jewish artists and art lovers could meet each other and connect around their passion. “There was one artist from the community here, a middle aged man, who’d been skeptical about the display at first,” Moully says. “He thought it would just produce hefkerus. But in the end, he thanked us. He said, ‘You gave me something I haven’t had in years—the chance to talk about art.’”

It was during those heady chol hamoed nights that the national TV film crew came wandering through. Their star had already left, but they filmed five minutes of conversation with Moully and broadcast sixty seconds of it. Those sixty seconds of fame led to a barrage of phone calls and some sales, including the Emory University sale.

The artistic networking that went on inspired Yitzhok and others to seek to continue the process after yom tov was over. He’s now in the process of organizing, along with some friends, a network of frum artists he calls “The Creative Soul,” to encourage Jewish artists to use their art to convey the beauty of Torah and the Jewish lifestyle.

“Many of the Hasidic Rebbes used art in the service of Yiddishkeit,” he says. “The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged [Baruch] Nachshon to go to art school in the 1960’s to develop his talent!

“I myself have sometimes questioned, ‘Is art an appropriate pursuit for me?’ After all I’m married, I have four kids, I need to spend time learning. But I spoke to a mashpia, and I realized I was asking the wrong question. The right question is, how are you going to use your abilities for avodas Hashem? When you phrase it that way, it’s not about having a hobby to blow off steam, or to feel good about yourself.

“It’s a way to imitate Hashem, through creating something brand new. And it’s a way to connect to Judaism, and get others to connect to it too.”

Moully’s art can be found online here.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

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Benjamin Wants the Beis Hamikdash

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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After I put tefillin on his father, I asked Benjamin what he wanted.

     With a big smile he answered, “The Beis Hamikdash!” He was referring to the Third (and Final) Temple which will come after the Mashiach (Messiah) comes.

     Benjamin goes to public school in America, but he also goes to “Hebrew classes” in the afternoon. His parents are not religious, but they want him to have at least this much connection to Judaism. I was surprised when he answered with the Hebrew term for the Temple.

     He was really excited. He went on, “I want to see the Mashiach, and the dead come back to life!”

     I sat down to be on eye level with him and said, “All these are very good things to want to see. They are going to be so, so wonderful. But there is something much more wonderful that we will see.

     His eyes widened.

     When the Temple comes what is going to be the best thing of all to see?”

     He looked up at his father and said, “What do you call it? I forget… You know you told me about that thing that’s inside?”

     I think that he was trying to remember the Aron HaKodesh (The ark that housed the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments)

     I said, “There is something way better than that that we are going to see. When the Temple comes, G-d is going to show us that He is actually here! We are going to see some of Hashem’s Glory! This is what was so very special about the First Temple, and it will be even more special when the Final Temple comes. This is why we want the Mashiach to come. So we will see the most wonderful thing anyone can ever possibly see.

     And this is something that we should try to see even now before the Temple comes. Every day we should look up and try to see that Hashem is really right here, right now, too.”

     Even the smallest children can understand the most mystical concepts when they are presented to them at their level. To want the Temple without wanting to experience the Shechina (G-d’s revealed Presence) is like lusting for a beautiful silver cup instead of the wine.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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I Bet You a Buck…

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     You can’t guess what this Jew from Long Island does for a living. Give up?

Since 1969 he has owned and operated a five star, luxury hotel. Huh? What’s so unusual about that?

Well, his lavish hotel is for animals! They offer ultra posh suites, and I think they play relaxation music when they give your dog a manicure or hair cut!

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Rabbi Elyashiv, zt”l, Niftar

Baruch Dayan Emes – Blessed is the True Judge.

Mystical Paths notes the passing of the leading litvish posek of the generation (the leading Jewish law deciding rabbi among the “litvish” stream of orthodox Judaism – one of if not the major stream of orthodox Judaism), Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, zt”l.  He was 102 and passed away in Jerusalem within the past hour.

May his merits be a blessing for all of Klal Yisroel, and may his family and talmidim be comforted among the mourners of Tziyon and Yerushalayim.

UPDATE – Early (unconfirmed) info says the levaya (funeral) is scheduled for 10:00 PM tonight, starting in Mea Shearim.  (It’s normal and preferred in orthodox Judaism for funerals to occur within 24 hours, and in Israel often less than 24 hours.)

UPDATE 2 – More reliable info now confirms levaya at 10:00 PM tonight, starting on Chanan Street, Malchei Yisroel in Meah Shearim.  The kvura will be at Har HaMenochos, Jerusalem.  IT IS EXTREMELY HOT AND DRY IN JERUSALEM (even at night, heat wave in progress), anyone attending is strongly advised to bring plenty of water and wear as light weight clothing as possible.

More info on Rav Elyashiv.

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One of the Nicest Letters I Have Ever Received

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Hello Rabbi,

     I was wondering if you have all your books and CD's in stock, I live in Canada and would like to order them.

     I'd like to add that I'm not Jewish, (not that it matters) but I find great joy and common sense in your teachings! I would like somehow or other to reach across our cultures and if only in my heart, see you as a friend and teacher. I'm 66 yrs old, I live in Vancouver B.C. Canada and have struggled with faith and making sense of religion for years.

    I'm cult’ed out, finished with India, the Roman Catholic Church, the 'new-age' mysticism etc etc..... It was your comment to that preacher.. "who did Je-sus pray to?" It was like a slap in the face, it woke me up!

    I'd love to hear from you, and if I never get to meet you let me thank you for your work and your concern for the rest of us.

     I hope I haven't come across as some kook...I’m not!

     I hope this finds you well and in joy.

Shalom, Gary

Gutman’s answer:

Shalom Gary,

        You do not sound like a kook, not at all. You sound like one of us who has spent his life searching, and only found disappointment. I bet you are going to make it, though. Not many people are really searching for the truth today, and instead are satisfied with what they have been doing, even though it has never paid off.

     My books and music are available from thereisone.com

     I recommend that you learn the Seven Commandments of Noah, and follow those simple commandments. This will give you a holy life in this world, and a share in the World to Come. You can search out such sites as AskNoah.org.

   Let me know if you have any questions.

Be well,
Your friend,
Gutman

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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A Simple Loud Voice

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A Chassidic Teacher

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A bubbly Chassid came up to me at the Kotel early this morning. “Do you remember me? Do you remember me?” It had been well over 15 years since I have seen him. He told me his name, my senior’s memory kicked in, and I remembered who he was. He used to come to my house for Shabbos dinner 15 years ago when he was a student here in Jerusalem.

     He is a gifted cheder rebbe. This means that he is very successful at teaching young boys Torah. This is an extremely valuable talent. The cheder rebbes impart feelings in children that can last their entire lifetime. He lives and teaches in Borough Park, New York, a mostly religious neighborhood.

     He was very happy to tell me that he and some of his friends are now putting tefillin on nonreligious Jews. This is something that they would not be doing had he not come with me to the Kotel and seen how important, and possible it is to help non religious Jews in this way.

     He told me that the school wants to move him from teaching sixth graders to teaching ninth graders. He asked me if he should do it.

     I told him that the ninth grade is a very important year, “By then the boys are starting to look elsewhere… beginning to leave Torah and stray after secular pleasures.”

     He corrected me, “That’s already happening in the sixth grade now!”

     “You have to go where you are needed the most,” I told him.

      He insisted that he is needed in both places.

      I said, “Then you have to teach others to be like you. You will be able to reach ten times more children if you teach ten other men to be like you.”

     He smiled. It was an entirely new idea for him. Then he asked, “How many other “Gutmans” do you have out there?”

     I said, “Thank G-d, there are a bunch of them, and some of them are doing a better job than I am.”

    He marveled at the idea of teaching others to teach like he does. If he will listen, not only will he help many more children, but as long as his teachers and students continue to do the good things that he taught them, then his portion will continually increase.

      For those who would like to ensure a comfortable, and growing place in the World to Come, know that whenever you help someone who goes on to help someone else, then, even if you are already in the next world, you will share in those good deeds, too. Your portion will increase no matter where you are.

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What’s Yours is the Governments

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

US President Barak Obama…

“If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that, someone else made that happen.”

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. 

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

Give thanks to the government, for it builds your business. (not)

If you’re a religious Jew, you give thanks to G-d.  Thanks for the abilities, thanks for the opportunities, thanks for the blessings.  You give charity because it’s an obligation – because you built that using your G-d given abilities and G-d given opportunities.  And you give charity and help others because of chesed, to help each other as we can, to make the world a better place, a blessed place, where kindness steps in.

We must appreciate our blessings and thank G-d for each and every one.  Not because they may not be here tomorrow, though that’s the case, but because we appreciate them today.

I have no idea what the US president was trying to say, but in Judaism you DO get credit for trying and succeeding.  You also get obligations to give and to help others succeed.  That’s the way of chesed and making this world a holy place.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

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Why is Everyone Angry at Bituach Leumi?

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths

Bituach Leumi, the Israel National Insurance Institute, is the equivalent of the United States Social Security Administration + Medicare/Medicare/Obamacare + the State Welfare Office or in Great Britain Social Service + Pension Service +  partially the National Health Service.

News this week from Israel has included a social protestor lighting himself on fire due to not qualifying for help from the Israel National Insurance Institute, a woman lighting an office of the National Insurance Institute on fire in Eilat due to a delay in assistance payments, and a vandalization assault on the National Insurance Institute office in Tel Aviv.

I was asked the question: Why is everyone angry at Bituach Leumi – the Israel National Insurance Institute?

In the secular world, if your family can't help all you've got is the government.  In Israel such help takes the form of Bituach Leumi, the National Insurance Institute.  They provide or manage programs for:

1. Disability.  Disabled or non-functional citizens get support payments, according to a percentage disabled and in line with their particular need.

2. Income support.  Welfare payments for those unable to earn an income.

3. Old Age Pension.

4. Survivors benefits.  Orphans of a covered person will receive support payments.

5. Health care coverage.  Citizens of Israel and legal residents get health care coverage via Bituach Leumi, provided by one of the 4 Israeli health care organizations.

6. Child welfare.  Every citizen mother of a child under 18 gets a payment monthly per child.

7. Various other benefits, such as short term sickness payments (Bituach Leumi pays the sick time from work), army reserve duty payments, death-burial payment, terrorism victim payments (G-d forbid), birth payment (a gift check from the country for your newborn) and more.

Unfortunately, Bituach Leumi is not known for their customer service, efficiency, or effectiveness.  Rather they are known for arcane rules, slow processes, and not so occasional mistakes.

The result is that people on the very edge and in serious need may find themselves in processes that take months to years to complete.  They may find themselves disqualified for seemingly arcane reasons from benefits they appear to deserve and desperately need.

This is not an indictment of Bituach Leumi.  They operate by government mandate, following government laws and regulations as well as the results of decades of court cases on various issues.  There are tens of thousands of such rules they have to follow, the results often being less than optimal.  Further, like any government agency they’re not incented – they’re just doing their job. 

The question is why people feel so desperate, yet you don’t (often) find this in the religious or charedi Jewish communities.  There is something WONDERFUL about the frum community - if people fall lots of people help in many ways.  There are literally tons of chesed organizations to which to turn. 

It's not always enough, it's messy and disorganized, but people rarely feel they have no where left to turn.  And when organizations aren’t helping, individuals often step in directly.

Part of Bituach Leumi’s problem is the secular and socialism aspect of the society in which they operate.  When people have no where else to turn, Bituach Leumi is not adequate for many.  When driven by Torah principles society is filled with chesed organizations, Bituach Leumi is part of a basket of community assistance.

And that makes all the difference.

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

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Free Jewish Historical-Fiction e-Book

(this offer is valid until July 30, 2012 only)

Meir Uri Gottesman, bestselling author of over 10 Jewish novels and children's books, including long-time favorites like Deep Blue and The Morning Star, has recently joined forces with Jewish E-Books . After years of waiting for his currently out-of-print books, or contending with sky-high prices of rare copies on Amazon, Gottesman fans the world over will finally be able to read the books they love--now as e-books.

In celebration of this exciting new partnership, Jewish E-Books is now offering The Harp, one of Gottesman's most popular novels, as a FREE e-book for 3 weeks only. (The book runs for $23.99 and upwards online).

A riveting, deeply evocative tale of the Second Temple's Destruction, this masterful work of 293 pages vividly brings to life the horror and destruction of the time—through the personal, heart-wrenching story of one Jew.

Click Here to download your FREE copy now!

We’ve read The Harp and his other book Deep Blue, and thoroughly enjoyed both.  We strongly recommend taking advantage of this free offer!

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Saturday, July 14, 2012

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Take a Break

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     An American tour guide was speaking to his group of some 20 young Americans at the Kotel. I waited until he finished and then I jumped in and gave my usual pitch about how the most important thing is for them to marry only a Jewish girl.

     I told them, “Then, no matter what you do with your life, you can always come home with your family, and we will be here waiting for you. But if you, G-d forbid, marry a non-Jewish girl, then most likely we will never see you again.”

     The guide laughed out loud, threw his hand up to “high-five” me and said, “You said the same thing to me when I was here nine years ago!”

     I went back to the tefillin stand and a few of the boys lined up to ask me questions. The first one asked if he should leave his secure business in his home town in Ohio to join his Jewish girlfriend in New York. “She said that I should go out and be adventurous.”

      “No way!” I told him. “Especially with the world economy the way it is. Stay where your business is and invite her to come be with you there. You want to have a family, not an adventure.”

     The second one asked me about converting his non-Jewish girlfriend whom he loved. I showed him that the central prayer we say every day when we read the Shema tells us not to follow our hearts and eyes, that they will lead us astray. “Yes, we have to have our hearts involved, but our intellects must rule over our desires.” 

     I explained how a conversion just to marry someone is not a kosher conversion, and the children would not be Jewish. And, “How is she going to keep kosher, and keep Shabbat if you aren’t?” He understood.

     The third one was a little older. He was living with a ch-ristian young women for some time. They took a break, and she moved to Wyoming to be a nurse. But, after nine months he rejoined her, and he is presently living with her in Wyoming. He is an engineer, but has no work there.

     I asked him, “Where is G-d?”

     He answered, “Everywhere.”

    “Good. You understand the greatest spiritual truth. Now, what happens if you have kids with her? You are going to love them very much and you will want to teach them the truth that G-d is Infinite, that He is everywhere. You will have to tell them that their mother’s god is not G-d because he is a limited being.”

    “And what do you think she is going to say to you? She is not going to give up her god for you. There is going to be terrible friction.”

    He nodded his head showing that he knew that what I was saying was true.

     “Do yourself a favor. Take another break. Go back to New York where you have work, and this time don’t sit at home alone being lonely. Go to your local Chabad House Friday nights for Shabbos dinners. Be with young, happy Jewish people. Look for all of the Jewish singles events you can find.”

     “Of course you will want to go back to her if you are lonely. But, you were created a Jew for a good reason. There is a Jewish girl meant for you out there somewhere, and she is looking for you. But she is not going to be looking in Wyoming. Look for her, too. But look where such a Jewish girl will usually be found so you can make a Jewish family.”

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Friday, July 13, 2012

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“He Doesn’t Want to!”

at the Western Wall with Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

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     I walked up to this nice family and asked the old man in the wheelchair to put on tefillin. His son jumped in and said, “He doesn’t want to!”

     I said to the son, “What are you saying? Of course he wants to put on tefillin!”

     He looked down at his father and asked him if he wanted to do such a thing. The old man smiled a little and nodded, “Alright.”

     He was almost ninety years old. His family moved to Israel from Romania a few years before the holocaust so they all survived.

     Even though his father put on tefillin, the son still refused. It was a tough, secular, Israeli family.

     I had the father bless his son, and to say out loud all of the good things that he wanted G-d to give the boy. This is something even the secular Israelis usually like to do. Even though they show their tough side to the public they have very warm hearts for their children.

     After the father blessed his son, I told the boy that when he became 13 he too could put on tefillin. He father quickly said that he already was 13.

    “Okay,” I said with a big smile, “Then you too can put on tefillin,” and I gently pulled the boy over and put tefillin on him.

     Then I went after his father, again. He was still tough, but seeing his father with tefillin, and his son also with tefillin on, he softened a little and I was able to pull his arm hard enough that he smiled and gave in, too.

     We see this over and over again. They refuse with harsh looks, and if you are clever enough, you get them to agree, and then you see their harsh faces turn into sweet smiles.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

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A Raging Sea

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     I just came back from my regular eye exam. The doctor is such a fine person. He is an eye surgeon, and a disease specialist, too. Thank G-d, all was well.

     He is a very intelligent, calm, Israeli with patience, and a very pleasant disposition. He is not Torah observant. I have been seeing him for a number of years. I like him.

     Today, he was moved to point to an old picture of a very religious-looking Jewish man that hangs on his office wall. He told me that he was his grandfather, and that he was the very important chief rabbi of his city in Europe. The doctor seemed rightfully proud of his righteous ancestor.

     Subtly referring to his lack of Torah observance, I asked him, “But what happened to his grandson?” (the doctor)

     He defended himself eloquently. “The prophets have told us that G-d is not interested in our sacrifices, and ceremonies, but in our hearts… that we should be good people, and be humble.” He was roughly quoting the Prophet Micah.[i]

     I said, “What you are calling ceremony, I have found to be spiritual tools… exercises that open our eyes to G-d’s Presence.”

     He did not give up, “It is alright for you, if you have found this good for yourself, but each person can take his own path.”

     I did not give up either. “The real problem with straying from the physical practices of the Torah is that once you leave them you go further and further away, until there is even intermarriage, and the grandchildren are called Luke and John instead of Aaron and Moshe.”

     His face dropped. His confidence left him. His eyes saddened. He had forgotten that a few years ago he told me that his daughter had moved to San Francisco, and married a wonderful, but non Jewish man.

     There are no rituals in the Torah. Each is a precious vehicle that can safely take us across a raging sea.


[i] Micah 6:8

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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Oh, Nuts!

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

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     A commenter asked: “Could you give us your opinion of a raw food/fruitarian diet? What is your diet? How do you get your protein, etc?

Response:

     There are a number of places where the Torah tells us that one of the rewards of following G-d’s words is a long life, “…Man shall carry out and by which he shall live…”[i] “… So that your days will be lengthened.”[ii]

     In fact, we say that G-d is the “Life of all Worlds.”[iii] So it is only logical that we should do things that lengthen our days, and avoid things that shorten them. Therefore, since reports show that people who eat nuts everyday live longer than those who do not, it makes sense that we should eat nuts.

     The doctor tested my blood last year. He said, “You must eat healthy food. You have the blood count of a 20-year old!”

     I am not going to tell you how old I am, but I remember the last baseball game my father took me to. It was a couple of years before my bar mitzvah. It was “Babe Ruth day” and they gave him a car. (Got the idea?)

     Here goes; I do not eat meat or fish, although some fish is very healthy. I haven’t eaten meat since 1967. I eat one meal a day (younger people need more), early in the morning (after davening neitz) [sunrise prayers], and if I am hungry I will have a piece of fruit or whatever I feel like eating during the day.

     Every day I have; squeezed lemon juice into a container of water, a few walnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, a glass of dry red wine, fresh garlic, an apple, and usually a tomato, and a kol rabi (a vegetable).... Once a week I steam a serving of broccoli or spinach, oatmeal, eggs, or tofu. Sometimes I have a green onion, a fat free, or almost fat free yogurt (for calcium). Besides the lemon juice and wine, I drink coffee (3:00 in the morning so I can stay awake.)

     All this is during the week, but Shabbos (and leftovers on Sunday) are different. For Shabbos, I prepare a miso matzah ball soup, fresh salad, with an outrageous nutritional yeast flavored vinegar dressing, cheese lasagna, baked sweet potatoes, and cooked peas with carrots, with sautéed onions, garlic, and mushrooms. The guests love it! Oh, for them, I serve a great ice cream, too.

     Shabbos morning there is a cheese sandwich with mustard, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, avocado on a great whole wheat roll.

     That’s the most of it. I am not a health food nut and am not against eating a candy or a cookie from time to time.  I am sure that there are a bunch of things that I have forgotten, but you get the idea from this.

     As for the raw food fruitarian diet; besides the hardship that it usually imposes for lack of necessary vitamins and minerals, I have a spiritual problem with it. G-d gave us this wonderful Land to live in. He loves this Land very much, and He calls it the “Land of Milk and Honey.” Seems like a great reason to eat milk and honey.

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That’s NOT Self Sacrifice!

by Reb Akiva’s Air Force Daughter @ Mystical Paths

(We’ve previously written about Reb Akiva’s Air Force Daughter here.)

This morning I went on the web site Kikar Shabbat, one of the big gist online charedi (ultra-orthodox) web sites.

The top headline is was gedolim (Torah leaders) crying out that ben Torah (every Jewish Torah scholar) must be willing to go to jail with mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice) to avoid Israeli army service.

And me?  I just sigh sadly, what a Chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s name).

For sure not every charedi bocher (ultra-orthodox young man) is ready to enlist, not at all. And for sure sadly the IDF, the Israeli Defense Force, isn't ready to handle to them.

Yet this is not generations ago where the Tzar’s army stole Jewish children for 20 years to de-judaize Russia.  Nor is it the ultra-secular zionist Israeli army of the 50’s-80’s, where religious Jews were abused during their service.

I did army service, going through no frum (Jewish religious) program.  The Israeli army of today is not the one of the past.  It’s not perfect, but religious observance rights are available and enforced.  (Yes one has to assert their rights.)

At the same time I see the Israeli government sending a wake up call to the ultra-orthodox world, one the charedi world is still trying to ignore or push aside BUT CAN NO LONGER IGNORE.

See, we the chardim are no longer the little brother, the tiny minority.  We can no longer can just sit on the side and just take. We must learn to function outside of our little world and box that we have created for protection of what has been done to us in the past.  The minority is on it’s way to being a majority, and is now already a significant force.

I will not say it is מתאים for every bocher to go into the IDF - but could the IDF take some serious steps and the rabbonim (the rabbis) can as well.

Instead as I see it, they are making a Chillul Hashem, literally making a joke of themselves.

It is so sad to me.  And (sarcastically) perfect for the 3 weeks.

(G-d willing) my children and my children’s children will do Israeli army service because if we don’t, who will?

I want to live … and live in the Land of Israel.  That requires that we protect this Land and protect ourselves.

When I served, on Israel’s largest air force base, I met religious and ultra-orthodox Jews from Bnei Brak, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Jerusalem and elsewhere.  (I spent one Shabbos with the base rabbi’s sister in Bnei Brak.)  They came from Torah homes, they davened (prayed) 3 times a day, ate glatt kosher food, had time to learn Torah and go to base shiurim (Torah lessons)…and protect their land.  They were able to learn and DO.

How dare the gedolim who, because of people like me (Israeli Defense Forces – Air Force) and my brother (Israeli Defense Forces – Army Nachal Charedi) are able to sit and learn safely all day, with no one shooting at them, say no to any army service.

Would they prefer gunshots ringing out on their neighborhoods?  Rockets landing on their yeshivot?  Bombs going off in their supermarkets?

I don’t want a life like that, so I’ll learn to shoot in a skirt (exactly what I did, the first air force girl to qualify on an M-16 in a floor length skirt).  I’ll work in the heat and in the dirt to keep the planes defending our lives in the air.  My brother will sweat through the summer, guarding and defending even on Shabbos Kodesh (as required by the Shulchan Aruch), Fast Days and Yom Tovim.  And knowing our lives are literally on the line… for our families, for the Jewish people, for our Land.

That’s mesiras nefesh (self sacrifice)!

I’m furious at the gedolim!

I put my life on the line for you!  And I’m willing to go back and do it again if needed!

And you have the audacity to tell me and my brother that you’ll have the mesiras nefesh to sit in jail to avoid the army?  That’s not mesiras nefesh, that’s being selfish.  It’s only caring about your needs, not thinking about others.

We need Torah scholars, we need moral authority in our lives.  But a stint of army service is no longer incompatible with that.  And further, if Israel is going to be the land of the religious Jew, who is going to defend them?

I thought about my needs when I went into the army, but I also thought about the needs of the rabbim - of the many.  And the many need protection everyday, so they don't get killed – and our enemies are literally trying to kill us every single day.

So much more so during the 3 weeks.  How lucky are we to be able to live here in the Land of Israel and to be able to protect it.  How our brothers and sisters during the time of the Beis Hamikdash would be crying right now to us…

About Achdus (Unity).  About having the ABILITY to defend ourselves, what a blessing!

A blessing not to be ignored.

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What Is G-d’s Purpose?

by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Regarding my video, “G-d is Everywhere” someone asked:

     “My question is; what is the purpose of G-d? Please don’t say that His purpose is to give to us. I have heard you say that before. I believe that He wants to find out who He is, so he gave us freewill, in order to select those souls (parts of him) who try to reach to Him and get them back where they came from.”

Gutman responds:

     We can never understand the Infinite because we are finite. But we know that G-d is loving because He tells us to be loving. He tells us to be kind, generous, righteous, and so on, so we know that He is all these. But G-d Himself has no purpose for being. He is the being.

     We try to put our experience onto Him, and it doesn't fit. We say that He wants to understand Himself, because this is what we want. We say He has needs because we have needs.

     The main point is to look around and see how you can help those around you. Then, no matter what happens, you can always say that you did your best. And, even more importantly, you will enjoy life more, too.

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